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Beyond the Sandwich: Back to School Lunch-Making



As if making lunches every day for three kids isn’t time-consuming enough, what’s even worse is when they complain about what you made them, or when they bring home uneaten lunches…

 

Since September is now here, I figured it was a good time to provide some time-saving lunch-making tips, and some lunch ideas, to help the parents in our community get your kids embracing healthy eating this year.

 

Batch Prep

 

You probably knew this tip was coming, since we often push you to meal prep for yourself, so it’s no surprise that when it comes to lunches for kids, batch-cooking meal prep remains at the very top of our list!

 

It really does save a lot of time and hassle if you prepare at least some of your kids’ lunches for the following week on the weekend before. Since kids generally like variety—unless you lucked out with a kid who’s happy to eat a ham and cheese sandwich every single day of the year—this doesn’t mean you need to feed them the same thing for five days in a row. Throwing some prepared meals in the freezer on Sunday means you might have one or two meals for the upcoming week, and you can save two more for the following two weeks.

 

Lunch idea that’s great to batch prepare:

Batch prepare smoothies; Pour them into individual containers and stick them into the freezer. Smoothies are also a great way to get fresh fruits and vegetables into your kids’ lunch in a way they’ll enjoy.

 

Prep with your kids:

 

Kids are less likely to complain about what you packed them for lunch if they get to play a role in the preparation process. This can mean taking them shopping with you, or getting them to be your sous-chef as you cook and bake.

 

Healthy baked lunch idea:

Healthy Banana-Oat Muffins. I included this recipe in a recent blog, but it really is amazing (and perfect for freezing, of course). Healthy apple sauce and granola bar recipes can also be found in that recent blog, Beware of Gluten Free Products

 

One Bowl, Banana Oat Muffins

Ingredients:

Wet Ingredients
  • 3 medium, very ripe bananas (a little over 1 cup)
  • ¼ cup melted coconut oil
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup coconut sugar*, more for topping
  • 2 eggs or 2 flax eggs (2 tablespoons ground flax + 6 tablespoons water, whisk together, set for 15 mins)
  • ¼ - ½ cup unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk or cashew milk, room temperature (start with 1/4 cup and adjust for the correct consistency)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Dry Ingredients
  • 1 ¾ cups gluten free oat flour
  • 1 ¼ cups gluten free rolled oats, + more for topping
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Toppings
  • 2 tablespoons rolled oats (optional)
  • 1-2 teaspoons coconut sugar* (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Coat a standard, 12-muffin pan with nonstick spray or oil.
  2. Peel bananas and add to a large mixing bowl. Using a sturdy whisk or fork, mash bananas until smooth. Add the coconut oil, maple syrup, sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla. Whisk until well incorporated.
  3. Add oat flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Whisk together until just incorporated, making sure no flour patches remain. Be careful not to overmix, as doing so will result in tough muffins.
  4. Pour batter evenly into the prepared muffin pan. Optional: sprinkle the muffin tops with rolled oats and sugar.
  5. Bake for 22-26 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool on a cooling rack for about 1 hour. Lift out and enjoy!

 

Trick them with 'Leftovers'

 

Although as adults we generally love leftovers, when we were kids, we certainly didn’t appreciate them. I remember when I used to ask my mom what was for dinner, and she replied, “leftovers,” it was going to be a bad day for me. But it’s pretty easy to refurbish leftovers and create something new and almost unrecognizable from the dinner the night before!

 

Lunch idea example:

Let’s say you had meatballs and mashed potatoes for dinner. Chop the meatballs up and warm them up with some tomato sauce, throw in some crispy broccoli, sprinkle parmesan cheese on top, and send your kid to school with a hot lunch.

 

Consider the shelf life:

 

Let’s say you’re making a dip for your kids’ vegetables. (We all know kids are more likely to eat their veggies is they’re smothered in dip!)

 

If you choose to make guacamole—a great, healthy vegetable dip—chances are it will only be good for that day, and may even look brown by lunch time. Homemade humous might be a better idea. Or….

 

Guacamole Mousse: Because of the lime and the coconut milk in this recipe, the guacamole mousse keeps its colour and taste for a few days.

 

Ingredients for a giant bowl of Guacamole Mousse:

 

  • 6-8 avocados
  • Juice from 3 whole limes or lemons
  • Salt and pepper and garlic powder to taste
  • Fresh basil or cilantro (optional)
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk

 

Throw it all in the food processor until it becomes the texture of a mousse. Keep refrigerated.

Lunch Share!: 

 

Get to know the parents in your kids’ class at school and find someone you know cares about nutrition, and then form a lunch share!

 

For example, Mondays and Wednesdays, you make lunch for your child and theirs, Tuesdays and Thursdays, they’re on lunch duty for yours. The great part is your kids are always less likely to complain when another parent makes their lunch…

 

“Tommy’s mom makes the best grilled cheese sandwiches. Make them like his mom…”

 

(Just hope Tommy doesn’t get sick and miss school, leaving your kid lunchless!).

 

I’ll leave you with a bunch of recipe and lunch box ideas here; https://nomnompaleo.com/paleolunchboxes

 

Remember, keep it stupid simple! Protein, Fruit+Vegetables, some Nuts+Seeds.

 

Good luck lunching, parents.

- Terrence